Mercury Retrograde in Leo & Cancer
It’s the main highway leading in, / the sun soon down. / Traffic backs up, creeps along, / it’s a torpid glittering dragon. / I am a scale on that dragon. / The red sun all at once / blazes in my windshield, / pouring in, / and makes me transparent. / Some writing shows / up inside me- words / written with invisible ink / appearing when the paper / is held over a fire. / I know that I have to go far away, / straight through the city, out / the other side, then step out / and walk a long time in the woods. / Walk in the tracks of the badger. / Growing hard to see, nearly dark. / Stones lie about on the moss. / One of those stones is precious. / It can change everything. / It can make the darkness shine. / It’s the light switch for the whole country. / Everything depends on it. / Look at it . . . touch it . . .
— Further In by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly
The stillness of Mercury when it stations retrograde demands attention. The fleet-footed Star of Hermes which is capable of questioning and curating with quicksilver speed, ever cunning in its capacity to incite changes in perspective, stands still in contemplative pause. In the liminal transition of twilight, Mercury shares the final light of its cycle before descending into its invisible phase of rebirth. It is always advisable to pay closer attention than normal when Mercury stations, as well as making space for reflection regarding inner shifts beginning to take shape. When Mercury stations retrograde on July 7 at 4º27′ Leo, however, it will be even more important than normal due to it stationing in range of a conjunction with Mars in Leo and a catalytic square aspect with Uranus in Taurus. These aspects indicate more than the usual amount of unexpected twists and turns in storylines suddenly appearing, even more so since it is also happening within the mysterious vortex of change that comes in between eclipses.
It’s common to hear warnings from astrologers to not sign any contracts or make major purchases during periods of Mercury retrograde, due to it being associated with delays and erratic volatility, but the fact remains that life for most cannot go on hold for the rest of July while Mercury is retrograde. It is possible to successfully initiate new enterprises, sign contracts, and make purchases during Mercury retrograde periods, but it is important to recognize it possesses a different quality of time than when Mercury is moving at its usual speed while direct. The slow, churning, backward motion of Mercury calls for introspection and paying close attention to inner guidance and intuition in relation to whatever is undertaken. While Mercury is retrograde we can become aware of numerous signs indicating it’s not the right time to do something we have been consciously fixated on making happen. However, if everything is lining up well to embark on a new initiative, there is no reason to refrain from acting just because of fear over the fact that Mercury is retrograde.
We are often called to revisit an old issue or pattern while Mercury is retrograde, but rather than becoming angry and frustrated over having to rework or re-engage with something from the past, it’s better to utilize the opportunity for resolving old issues, making reparations and repairs where needed, and coming to terms with whatever needs completion in order to more effectively welcome an influx of new developments. In the week following Mercury stationing retrograde on July 7, take time for reflection regarding whatever you have outgrown and feel that the time has arrived to release. Mercury retrograde periods are always powerful in terms of purging and breaking free from old habits, but this particular Mercury retrograde will be even more powerful than normal due to Mercury stationing in strong aspect with both Mars and Uranus, while also happening in between a solar and lunar eclipse. There is an old way of expressing ourselves in the world that is ready to be shed, while at the same time a potent new form or source of creativity is ready to be embraced.
The Fixed & Volatile Fire of Leo
The dwarf pine on marsh grounds holds its head up: a dark rag. / But what you see is nothing compared to the roots, / the widening, secretly groping, deathless or half-deathless root system.
I you she he also put roots out. / Outside our common will. / Outside the City.
Rain drifts from the summer sky that’s pale as milk. / It is as if my five senses were hooked up to some other creature / that moves with the same stubborn flow / as the runners in white circling the track as the night comes misting in.
– A Few Moments by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly
As Mercury stations on July 7 to begin slowly shifting retrograde on July 8, we will experience the unusual occurrence of Mars applying toward a conjunction with Mercury that completes on July 8. While Mars will continue to charge forward into a volatile aspect with Uranus in Taurus that will complete on July 11, Mercury will turn around and head backwards before completing an exact square aspect with Uranus. As Mars completes its catalyzing aspect with Uranus, Mercury will be disappearing from view in twilight and entering its invisible, psychopomp role of pulling awareness into subconscious depths. In combination these aspects portend extreme volatility with mental unrest and overwhelm at times overcoming us, as well as sudden conflicts arising that could provoke frustration and anger. There may also be a connection of events back to the period of June 18 when Mercury previously formed a conjunction with Mars for the first time in this series.
Yet the volatile, destructive quality of time signified by Mercury stationing retrograde while engaging both Mars and Uranus can be utilized in breaking free from situations that have been limiting or stagnating us. There is a highly charged dosage of liberating creativity and courageous determination within these aspects that can spur us to act on desires for new growth and dynamic exploration. However, it will be vital to keep in mind the tendency of Mercury retrograde periods to bring delays, so be patient and do your best to not add fuel to fires of frustration when events do not move as quickly as you had expected. Positively, Mercury retrograde periods can help cultivate incredible focus directed toward research, writing, and other mental pursuits when we are able to make time and space free from distractions. As long as we don’t insist on making fast progress, Mercury in its retrograde path through Leo can facilitate work on creative projects that can eventually manifest powerful results in the months ahead. Rather than cursing Mercury retrograde when we lose track of something or are surprised by a sudden twist of fate, see where the unexpected turns take you and discover whatever revelations your mind becomes opened to receive.
Mercury will remain retrograde in the first decan of Leo until July 19 when it will return to the watery sign of Cancer. Austin Coppock in his book 36 Faces ascribed the image of “The Spotlight” to the first face of Leo, describing its power to focus massive attention through the role, mask, or persona we bear in public performance for an audience. Since Mercury retrograde will be stoking the flames of the first face of Leo as the Sun forms a conjunction with the North Node of the Moon on July 10 and then eclipses the Capricorn Moon on July 16, take time to contemplate whatever has been feeling inauthentic regarding the persona you have been engaging the wider world through. What aspects of soul and psyche have you been neglecting in your pursuit of worldly ambition or insistence on doing things a certain way to conform with external expectations?
Mercury retrograde in the fire of the first face of Leo can be utilized to burn off and purge however we have allowed ourselves to stray from our essential purpose, or however we have been restricting ourselves from pursuing and achieving what we want to create. In particular, whatever fears and blockages have arisen as barriers during the recent months of Saturn, Pluto, and the South Node of the Moon aligning in Capricorn will become triggered during the Lunar Eclipse in Capricorn on July 16. While we will need to face and deal with issues of necessity during this time, the sleight of hand offered by Mercury retrograde can help open a new awareness for how to handle responsibilities while also nurturing the life we desire to cultivate. After Mercury moves backward into the lunar-ruled sign of Cancer on July 19, a few days after the lunar eclipse, we will need to sift through irrational feelings and messages from our depths that will be able to ultimately help guide us forward into a more fulfilling direction.
From Flames to Waves
“We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can take for us, an effort which no one can spare us.”
— Marcel Proust from Within a Budding Grove volume two of In Search of Lost Time
Mercury will return to Cancer on July 19, making the incongruous transition from the hot and dry fire sign of Leo into the cold and moist water sign of Cancer. Whereas the scorching, fiery light of the Sun rules Leo, Mercury will submit to rulership from the cool, receptive light of the Moon within the waters of Cancer. Mercury slowly moving retrograde under rulership of the Moon brings it under the influence of the constantly changing lunar phases, meaning our perception will be pulled even more so than normal into a realm of changing feelings and thoughts, emotional needs and desires. It will be necessary to make an effort to gain objective clarity, yet the sway of our subjective senses will be able to make meaning from an inner turn toward intuition, impressions, empathy, and imagination. With Mercury at the very end of its cycle within the lunar waters of Cancer, our thoughts will be sensitized to the unconscious depths of memories, dreams, and nonlinear sensations.
While Mercury will station direct and return to visibility as a Morning Star at the end of July, it will remain in the third decan of Cancer from July 19 through August 11 when it will finally return to Leo. Austin Coppock in his book 36 Faces gave the image of “The Overflowing Cup” to the third face of Cancer, linking it with both the endless energy of the natural world as well as the danger of facing scarcity within societal systems in which people compete for limited material resources. The importance Coppock noted for being a “conduit for luxury, not its endpoint” through investing any excess of luxury one accumulates into additional good works relates well to the societal upheaval which will likely correspond with eclipses volatilizing the combination of Saturn and Pluto with the South Node of the Moon in Capricorn. As Mercury moves retrograde and stations direct within the third face of Cancer, consider how its regenerative process may reshape your work to not only be more personally fulfilling but to also provide resources to benefit others.
Mercury retrograde will reenter the third face of Cancer only a couple of days before it becomes regenerated through its conjunction with the Sun on July 21, placing it at the end of a cycle similar to a Dark Moon. Fittingly, the Hellenistic text 36 Airs named the lunar goddess Hecate as presiding in the third face of Cancer. Hecate has always been honored at the crossroads during the dark phase of the Moon as well as when facing the darkness of the unknown. The wise crone and dark goddess who rules over all lunar phases and all realms of the upper and underworld, Hecate for ages has been available to call for regenerative guidance and assistance during dark nights of the soul. With Mercury going through a death and rebirth process in the inner, watery home of the Moon, we will need to discern inner guidance from the deep stirring of our emotions. Old memories that bear a soulful message will likely demand attention and call us to re-integrate them into the way our regenerating perspective is reshaping our life narrative.
“When from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”
— Marcel Proust from Swann’s Way volume one of In Search of Lost Time
Chthonic Cazimi in Cancer
“On the way there a couple of startled wings fluttered, and that was all. One goes there alone. It is a lofty building made entirely of open spaces, a building which sways all the time, but is never able to fall. The sun, changed into a thousand suns, drifts in through the open slivers. And an inverse law of gravity takes hold in the play of light: this house floats anchored in the sky, and what falls falls upward. It makes you turn around. In the woods it is all right to grieve. It’s all right to see the old truths, which we usually keep packed away in the luggage. My roles down there in the deep places fly up, hang like dried skulls in an ancestor hut on a remote Melanesian island. A childlike light around the terrifying trophies. Woods are mild that way.”
– A Place in the Woods by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly
On July 21, Mercury will unite with the Sun at 28º28′ Cancer during its inferior conjunction in which Mercury aligns in between our orbit with the Sun, as close to us in orbit as it is possible for Mercury to be. Astrological texts named this time of rebirth cazimi, or being in the heart of the Sun, when Mercury is seated upon the throne of the solar ruler and revitalized with the creative potency of our solar light. This is a moment of solar re-seeding in which Mercury is regenerated and purified within a place Demetra George has described as the “protected space at the heart of the Sun . . . the innermost holy chamber of the mystery initiations.” As a result, July 21 will be especially potent in terms of turning within for reflection and contemplation regarding all of the material stirred up by the eclipses of July. We may not only set intention for release and to manage whatever is demanding our attention, we may also plant the seeds of whatever we wish to cultivate during the coming cycle of Mercury.
At the same time that Mercury is being reborn in the heart of the Sun, the disseminating Moon in Pisces will be conjoining Neptune. The Moon’s union with Neptune supports setting time and space aside to luxuriate within your senses and imagination, to meditate away from the monotony of daily responsibilities when possible. It will also be a potent time to pay attention to dreams or actively work with any recent dream images, as well as contemplate messages received from signs and synchronicities in your environment.
There is a compelling connection between the conjunction of Neptune and the Moon with the Sabian symbol for the degree where the chthonic cazimi of Mercury occurs. The Sabian symbol for Cancer 29° is “a greek muse weighing new-born twins in golden scales,” a symbol which Dane Rudhyar described as involving “the intuitive weighing of alternatives.” Rudhyar wrote that since it’s “the Muse that is doing the weighing, it is apparent that forces deeper or higher than the intellect are actually at work- the intuitive mind, or what Jung calls the anima, i.e. the psychic function which relates ego-consciousness to the collective Unconscious.” Rudhyar further noted this symbol can also imply that we need to sort through what “may be more a dream or ideal than a practical reality” within choices needing to be made, an important warning to keep in mind when the Moon is under the sway of Neptune.
In addition to the Moon conjoining Neptune at the time of Mercury’s union with the Sun, Venus in Cancer will be forming an opposition with Pluto. The presence of Venus less than six degrees away from the rebirth of Mercury is pivotal, for Mercury has turned backward in order to complete an additional union with Venus on July 24. The mutual application of Mercury retrograde with Venus signifies a sudden insight or turn of events. Both Venus and Mercury are in the middle of a regenerative process of purification, with the opposition from Venus with Pluto dredging up unconscious patterns that have been impacting relationships from hidden realms within. There is incredible depth within these aspects that will be worth the time made for reflection and sifting through the intensification of desire that will be stirred. Though both Mercury and Venus are not at full strength during their union, their meeting can bring healing and nurturance to whatever needs tending.
Morning Star of Lunar Tides
One March day I walked down to the lake shore to listen. / The ice was blue as the sky. And breaking up in the sun. / The sun whispers into a microphone under the ice. / There’s a seething and burbling. Far out it sounds like a sheet / being snapped. / The whole thing is like History: our present. We are lowered / into it, we listen . . .
Radical and Reactionary live together as in a miserable marriage, / diminished by each other, leaning on each other. / But we, their children, have to find our own road. / Each problem cries out in a private language! / Walk down any path where there is a trace of truth.
In a field not far from the subdivisions / a newspaper has been lying for months, full of news. / It is aging because of days and nights, rain and sun. / It’s on its way to becoming a plant, a cabbage head. It’s starting / to join the field, / like an old memory gradually changing into you.
– from About History by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly
From July 22 through the end of July, Mercury will remain invisible until it returns to visibility as a Morning Star around the same time that it stations direct on July 31. The return of Mercury’s light will bring important messages to receive and integrate, highlighting the importance of making time and space for reflection and paying close attention to the signs we receive in our daily travel. The date of July 31 signals a major transition from the eclipse season of July, as a New Moon in Leo will occur within the same hour in which Mercury will station direct. This will be a potent date to deepen the understanding gained during Mercury’s movement retrograde, as well as setting intentions for the forthcoming lunar cycle, yet the stationary presence of Mercury suggests we will remain in a liminal state of recovery for a time before moving stridently forward with progress in August.
While Mercury will station direct at 23º56′ Cancer, Pluto will be moving retrograde away from an opposition with Mercury at 21º28′ Capricorn. Although Mercury will not reach an exact opposition with Pluto, its intensity will be deeply felt as the transiting Moon in Cancer will pass through an opposition with Pluto and a conjunction with Mercury on July 30. As Mercury stations in the final days of July in opposition with Pluto, we can expect a final upsurge of information to enter our awareness from subconscious depths and unexpected sources, one more installment of whatever material was stirred up by the Lunar Eclipse in Capricorn on July 16. The tension between Mercury and Pluto can facilitate penetrating underneath the surface of conventions, probing beyond societal boundaries to understand the essence of whatever you have been exploring.
Significantly, Mercury will be stationing direct in range of a conjunction with the North Nodes of Saturn and Pluto. This is of vital importance due to the fact that the alignment of Saturn, Pluto, and the South Node of the Moon in recent months has ben occurring in alignment with the South Nodes of Saturn and Pluto, a configuration that has been dredging up intense societal issues that have roots within the oppressive cycles of civilized history. With Mercury activating the North Node side of Cancer, it may feel like peeling off the dead skin of perception you have been attached to using when interpreting meaning, especially those aspects heavily conditioned by external influences within your surrounding civilization. While you may initially feel vulnerable due to releasing perspectives that have brought security to your identity, you can simultaneously begin to feel revitalized by embracing a more authentic way of understanding.
Mercury will reach maximum elongation as a Morning Star on August 9 at 29º Cancer, marking its entrance into what Gary Caton named the rubedo phase of its alchemical, retrograde process in his book Hermetica Tryptycha. As we work to integrate the insights and changes in perspective realized during Mercury’s retrograde journey, Caton noted that we should expect to endure a phase of chaotic volatility as we make the shift into a new way of being as Mercury picks up speed and moves through its Morning Star phase. After Jupiter in Sagittarius stations direct on August 11, Mercury will return to Leo and begin applying toward a harmonious trine aspect that will facilitate taking ownership over creating what you want to bring into the world free from the weight of however you have held yourself back in the past.
By the time of the Aquarius Full Moon on August 15, Mercury will be crossing the threshold of the degree in Leo in which it stationed retrograde at the beginning of July, finally completing its catalyzing square aspect with Uranus on August 16. The month of August holds dramatically different astrological meaning than the month of July, with a strong focus on fiery inspiration and creativity. The more we can utilize July for clearing and reshaping our perspective, the more we will be able to manifest powerful changes and productive results in August and September.
Caton, Gary. (2017). Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year. Rubedo Press.
Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.
George, Demetra. (2019). Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: a Manual of Traditional Techniques. Rubedo Press.
Rudhyar, Dane. (1973). An Astrological Mandala: the cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases.
Tranströmer, Tomas. (2001). The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer. Selected and translated by Robert Bly. Graywolf Press.